Scottish independence: Scottish government predicts 'oil boom'

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Scotland is in line for a "renewed oil boom", according to analysis released by the Scottish government.

Its first Oil and Gas Analytical Bulletin predicts that production in Scottish waters could generate up to £57bn in tax revenue by 2018.

It also says more than half the value of total reserves in the UK Continental Shelf are still to be extracted.

The figures are higher than those projected by the UK's Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR).

The OBR predicts oil tax revenue will drop from £6.7bn this year to £4.1bn by 2017-18.

The Scottish government bulletin highlights four potential scenarios that it says, taking account of recent trends in investment and prices, could result in the industry generating between £41bn and £57bn in tax revenue between 2012-13 and 2017-18.

These scenarios include the assumptions that production will rise in line with industry forecasts and that prices will rise in line with Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) forecasts, rather than the OBR's forecasts.

Energy capital

The report also said Scotland's position as the EU's energy capital had been reaffirmed, with the country estimated to be the largest producer of hydrocarbons in the EU, accounting for 64% of the EU's total oil production in 2010.

Among the other main points in the bulletin are:

  • The oil and gas sector is a key part of the Scottish economy. It is estimated to contribute around £25bn to Scottish GDP (onshore and offshore), approximately 17% of the total in 2011. The North Sea oil and gas sector is also a major exporter, boosting the UK balance of payments by £40bn in 2011.
  • Oil and Gas UK - the industry body - estimated that up to 24 billion barrels of oil and gas equivalent could still be recovered. These reserves are estimated by the Scottish government to have a potential wholesale value of up to £1.5tn. This implies that, by wholesale value, more than half of the oil and gas reserves in the UK Continental Shelf (UKCS) could still be extracted.
  • It is estimated that Scotland accounted for 78% of total UK hydrocarbon production in 2011-12.
  • The latest Oil and Gas UK Activity Survey reported record levels of North Sea investment. Investment in 2012 was worth £11.4bn, the highest level for 30 years. Investment is expected to increase to £13bn in 2013, while total investment in companies' plans is estimated to now be worth almost £100bn.
  • It is estimated that approximately 85 of remaining UK hydrocarbon reserves lie in Scottish waters. Scotland's share of estimated oil reserves is thought to be higher still, with in excess of 90% of UK oil reserves believed to be located in Scotland's share of the UKCS.

Speaking during a visit to Aberdeen Harbour with Finance Secretary John Swinney, where they met industry leaders from Oil and Gas UK, First Minister Alex Salmond said the analysis showed Scotland's oil and gas sector was going from "strength to strength".

Start Quote

It's clear that Scottish oil and gas could generate more revenues than has previously been assumed”

End Quote Alex Salmond Scottish First Minister

"This bulletin shows the impact that increases in investment could have on production and revenues, and examines a range of scenarios," he said.

"It demonstrates that, when the expected increase in production to two million barrels a day is taken into account, there can be little doubt that Scotland is moving into a second oil boom.

"It is also clear that a wide range of credible forecasters expect oil prices to remain close to present levels, or rise further in future years - with some organisations, such as the OECD, suggesting that prices could exceed $150-a-barrel by 2020.

"Even with a cautious estimate of prices remaining at $113 a barrel being used, it's clear that Scottish oil and gas could generate more revenues than has previously been assumed.

"Indeed, the scenarios examined - and based on recent investment and price trends - identify the potential for total revenues over the next six years of between £41 and £57bn.

"Taking an average, that would be £48bn coming from the North Sea during that period - revenues that, with independence, could have been put to use in Scotland, supporting our public services and investing in our future."

Last week, a draft government discussion document on the country's financial position after independence was leaked to the BBC.

The year-old paper said the volatility in projecting North Sea oil revenues created financial uncertainty and, although an oil fund - which the Scottish government has said it wants to set up after independence - could increase stability, it might mean spending cuts.

'Finite resource'

It also pointed out that revenues could be higher than expected and that independence would give Holyrood greater power to manage its money.

The OBR last year significantly lowered its projections for oil and gas receipts to 0.05% of GDP by 2040/41 - about half the level it projected in a report the previous year.

Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Willie Rennie said the Scottish government's "rushed" prediction of £8.5bn in oil and gas revenues for 2016-17 were double the OBR prediction for the same year of £4.2bn.

"In public, the SNP desperately insist the boom years are ahead, but in private we know they are deeply concerned that oil revenues are volatile, unpredictable and falling," he said.

"The SNP's oil predictions for the first year of independence are double that of the independent OBR's, but what if the SNP are wrong?

"The equivalent of the entire education budget would be written off in the blink of an eye. This rushed report should not be used to underwrite the SNP's gamble."

Start Quote

If there's one thing we can be sure of, it's that oil prices fluctuate wildly, but there's no acknowledgement of this in the report”

End Quote Ruth Davidson Scottish Conservative leader

Scottish Labour's Richard Baker added: "Last week we found out that in private John Swinney thinks that oil revenues will fall in a separate Scotland, bringing into question the affordability of even the state pension.

"So on Alex Salmond's orders he has spent the weekend cooking the books to come up with an extra £26bn out of thin air. The SNP really do think that they can treat the people of Scotland like fools."

Scottish Tory leader Ruth Davidson claimed the bulletin was full of "contradiction and assumption".

She added: "If there's one thing we can be sure of, it's that oil prices fluctuate wildly, but there's no acknowledgement of this in the report."

Oil & Gas UK communications director Trisha O'Reilly said: "There is a substantial prize still to be won, with up to 24 billion barrels of oil and gas to recover.

"These barrels will be difficult and expensive to develop and operate, but with co-operation with and between the Scottish and UK governments, and continued innovation and strong stewardship by the industry, we believe it can be done."

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